Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor, Varun Sharma, Prateik Babbar, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Amir Khan, Mohammed Samad, Naveen Polishetty, Tushar Pandey and Saharsh Kumar Shukla
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Rating: * * *
A rather motley mix of ‘3 Idiots’ , ‘Student of the Year 2’ and several other Bollywood films with collegian antics as a theme, Nitesh Tiwari’s second directorial effort, after the super success of ‘Dangal,’ is more of a wannabe than a star in its own right. The silver lining though is the anti-suicide theme that runs through the film - coming as it does on the cusp of World Suicide Prevention Day, Sept 10th.
The narrative opens in youthful zest. We see a crew of semi-nude male hostelites throwing buckets of water at each other as part of a playful challenge routine. They are within the precincts of a prestigious Engineering college circa sometime in the early 1990’s, and the antics they get up to are rather juvenile and incredibly delinquent. It could even have you wonder whether this was the standard of student intake from the tough IIT-JEE mind-trap? Well…it’s better not to go there.
What happened in the past seems more like trivial foreplay before the tragic present can impinge on it. Raghav ( Mohammad Samad) the 17 year old son of two of that prestigious college’s supposedly brilliant alumni, Aniruddh Pathak (Sushant Singh Rajput) and Maya(Shraddha Kapoor), once married, now divorced, gives vent to his anxieties when he learns about his failure to pass into the JEE ranks. While he is critical in hospital, his anguished parents play the blame game before coasting to a nostalgia driven penance that is meant to disprove Raghav’s estimation of himself as a loser.
And that involves getting together Ani’s ( as he was nicknamed in college) old college buddies - Sexa (Varun Sharma), Mummy (Tushar Pandey), Acid (Naveen Polishetty), Derek (Tahir Raj Bhasin) and Bevda (Saharsh Kumar Shukla), from places as far as the USA and as wide as the Earth, in order to excavate his son’s negative self-belief and rekindle hope strong enough to make him fight for his life.
There are far too many unforgivable liberties taken in the hospital scenes and in the development of this rather hackneyed story but even so, at the heart of it, there’s a genuine feeling for the tragedy of hopelessness plaguing the youth of today. While the treatment is not exactly skilful, the intermittent back and forth cutting, the mining of teenage antics for comedy and the exaggerated sporting competition that is instrumental in making the ‘signature statement’ - keeps the interest chugging along. The costumes and hairstyles owe more to cinema lore than period refinements.
Tiwari’s noble intent gains strength from some solid performances from most of the cast. Sushant has the most challenging, lengthier role as a young collegiate and older father. But his efforts to be credible are at best iffy - given his rather ‘mumbling/unclear’ dialogue delivery. The effusive post credit song and dance which exhorts the youth to ‘Fikar Not’ with verve and zest, is certainly contagious.
The message sought to be brought home here is ‘You are not a Loser if you try your Best.’ For all the frivolity, contrivance and unassailable antics in its midst, Tiwari’s comingled narrative does well to make that theme ring resoundingly even though the run-up to that end play is rather stereotypical and haplessly clichéd. All might not be well with this ‘3 Idiots’ wannabe but it’s entertaining nevertheless!